Title: Kneazels and Crups
Summary: Some creatures just aren't compatible under normal circumstances.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): None, really.
Epilogue compliant? Nay, EWE all the way!
Word Count: 2,500
Author's Notes: aluinnsearlait, you asked for "a scene defining some fundamental aspect of their relationship, whether subtle or not". I guess the result of my attempt to provide you with what you asked for turned out rather… "not". Many thanks to my super-speedy beta, and to the mods for their patience!
Slytherins, Draco mused as he accepted the glass of champagne Pansy offered him, were not all they were cracked up to be when it came to cunning. Because here they were, every one of his old school mates who wasn't dead, in prison, or in exile, together with his parents and his deaf grand-uncle, doing their best to act nonchalant while giving off the understated, yet distinct vibe that they wanted to tell him something.
Then again, arranging an anniversary party for him to which his chosen partner was not invited might not strictly fall under the definition of "understated".
Pansy had explained that it was necessary because his father would get that nervous tick below his left eye whenever Draco's paramour of one year was mentioned, and that Potter would never set foot inside a den of Slytherins anyway, so it was the kind thing to spare him the embarrassment of having to decline the invitation. Besides, the old Gryffindor posse would, on the same evening, throw Potter his own party in some sleazy pub, where they could toast the fact that their hero had survived a full twelve months of being buggered by his ex-archnemesis.
The archnemesis part was pure, shameless flattery, but Draco knew better than to question a compliment these days. So he drank down the champagne to better prepare himself for the evening to come, plastered his best haughty smile onto his face, and went to enjoy what was probably going to be a very long night of partying. There hadn't been that many celebrations of which he was the centre during the last couple of years, and he was no longer a spoiled schoolboy, but a grown man in his twenties who had learned the hard way to count his blessings.
He still wasn't entirely sure whether he counted Harry among them.
Trust his mother, Draco thought while he one-handedly fumbled for the key to his home, to present him with the gift he'd wanted during his entire childhood once he was no longer a child. Still, the young black-and-white Kneazle was very pretty, and although he was currently hanging on to Draco's arm like grim death with his claws firmly embedded in the fine silk of Draco's dress robes, Draco was quite pleased with the new addition to his – their – household. He and Harry had been talking about getting a pet anyway, and he very much doubted that Harry was firm enough in his knowledge of magical creatures to understand that a Kneazle – a beast renowned for its uncanny ability to detect unsavoury or suspicious characters – was a rather undiplomatic anniversary present as far as the giver's opinion of the giftee's chosen partner was concerned.
He found Harry in his favourite armchair in front of the fireplace, sleeping the noisy sleep of the slightly inebriated with a furry lump in his lap. When Draco stepped closer, the lump suddenly raised a reddishly flecked head, opened bloodshot eyes and bared two rows of yellow teeth with a low growl. Draco yelped as the Kneazle on his arm reacted by sinking his claws through silk and skin right down into the flesh of Draco's arm and took a hasty step back, causing him to trip over one of Harry's shoes which the careless git must have toed off in the middle of the room on his way to the armchair.
Things went downhill rather quickly from there.
"What do you mean, you won't get rid of it? I'm not having a walking flea circus in my house, thank you very much!" Draco did his best to sound superior, although the effect was somewhat marred by the hissing, spitting Kneazle desperately trying to escape his grip.
Harry held the yowling Crup to his chest as if he were clutching the long-lost Holy Saucer that went with the Grail. "He was a gift from my friends, of course I'm not getting rid of him!" His voice was slurry from too much cheap alcohol, but still carried easily over the combined noise of two frenzied magical creatures. "They gave him to me because they know I've always wanted a puppy!"
"Oh, please." Draco shot him a dirty look over the struggling Kneazle. "I bet the Weasel abused his position in the Auror corps to check my secret file, and when he found out that I hate dogs, he chose this for you to get back at me!"
"God, is there anything in this world that isn't about you?" Harry snapped. "In case you've forgotten, I'm an Auror too, and I know we don't have a secret file on you! Why on earth would we, you're completely harmless these days!"
Draco's eyes narrowed. "Harmless, am I? I work at the Ministry too, in case you've forgotten, and I move in much more influential circles than you do!"
"Yes, because you serve them coffee during meetings!"
Draco stared at him. "You – you know damn well that the secretary act is just a disguise for the fact that I'm an Unspeakable, you bloody wanker!"
"You're not supposed to admit that, you blundering idiot!"
Really, Draco thought as he slammed the door of their bedroom shut with a triple Locking Charm and went to unattach the Kneazle from his abused arm, Potter only had himself to blame if he had to spend the rest of the night in the bleeding armchair.
"His name is Godric, you know," Harry said over the rim of his teacup into the icy silence of the kitchen.
Draco had been about to doze off over his bowl of porridge (the Kneazle had decided to use him as a scratching post right when he'd finally managed to fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning), but this snapped him awake in an instant. "That mongrel of yours? That's not even worth joking about."
"Draco, please." Merlin, Harry looked like a starving puppy himself when he used that petulant tone. "I'm really happy with him, and I'm sure we can work out a solution you can live with too. You know I'm no cat person, but I'll put up with your Kneazle if you want him so badly, just –"
"How generous of you," Draco interrupted him icily. "And I suppose you expect me to call him Salazar so that they can be a complementing set of clichés?"
Harry was about to reply when a furious howl, interspersed with loud hissing, arose in the living room. Draco shot a deadly glare across the kitchen table and rushed to save his pet from the jaws of unsanitary dog-breathed death. If Harry thought he could whine his way out of that one, he'd better think again fast.
And he was going to name the Kneazle Tom out of pure spite.
It turned out that it took remarkably little – like, say, two pets who'd be at each other's throats whenever they were in the same room – to turn a formerly comfortable household into a war zone. Draco claimed the upper floor with the bedroom for Tom, which led to Harry setting up shack on the rickety couch in the downstairs living room, where he was free to sleep curled up with his fleabag companion instead of Draco every night. Draco was actually glad of the new arrangement since at last he didn't have to listen to Harry's deafening snoring any more. The downside was that there now weren't any other Harry-related bedroom activities either, but Draco was sure that this would be a temporary problem, since Harry Potter of the abysmal impulse control wouldn't be able to cope with a prolonged lack of sex.
"Aren't you afraid that he'll begin to stray?" Pansy asked Draco when he mentioned that fact to her over a cup of coffee the other day, but Draco merely laughed at the idea.
"Pansy, who would ever voluntarily touch the git?"
"Other than you, you mean?" she shot back with her sweetest poisonous smile, and he had to admit that she at least was doing the House of the Serpent proud.
Pansy arched an eyebrow at him. "You conceding a point means that you want something from me."
"Of course it does. Could you look after Tom next week while I'm at that international Magical Law Enforcement conference thing in Paris? Potter will go too, so you needn't worry that you'll catch anything Gryffindor while you're in the house."
Pansy grimaced slightly. "Fine, but don't expect me to take care of that Crup of his as well."
Draco gave her a smirk. "That goes without saying."
Draco had been rather looking forward to the trip to Paris, prospect of boring conferences notwithstanding, but the frosty silence in which he and Harry finished their packing wasn't exactly promising the most rewarding trip to the City of Love.
Harry sported a long scratch across his cheek from trying to wrestle Tom away from the Crup's throat the evening before, and he seemed to be in a rather foul mood. Not that Draco cared, of course.
"I asked Luna to look after Godric while we're gone," Harry finally said when they were sitting down for a tense dinner.
Draco frowned. Pansy and Loony Lovegood at close quarters were bad news; for some reason, those two were thick as thieves lately, and there was no telling what they would get up to when they were given free rein over other people's homes. "You knew I asked Pansy to look after Tom, didn't you?"
Harry shrugged, his eyes on his plate. "So? At least the two of them won't be trying to kill each other."
After that, they finished their dinner in silence; the only sound to be heard was a low growl from the living room which Draco chose not to comment upon.
Even the somewhat lukewarm hopes Draco had harboured about the time in Paris proved too optimistic. He and Harry barely got to see each other all week; their conference schedules didn't overlap, and it wasn't hard to notice that Harry was avoiding him deliberately in the corridors. The loss was all his, of course – Draco knew Paris well and had promised to show him the most beautiful parts, but if Potter wanted to play his little game, he could bloody well look for another tour guide.
In the end, Draco didn't get to see all that much of the city himself; he'd been planning on skipping a few meetings, but somehow his heart wasn't in it. The one afternoon he did manage to go to the Louvre he couldn't shake the feeling that he would have enjoyed himself a lot more if Harry had been with him, if only because it would have been hilarious to witness Harry being bored to tears by some of the world's most finest works of art.
Trust a moping Gryffindor to ruin even Paris.
Draco hated the Knight Bus with a fiery passion, but since their house was unplottable and it was raining cats and dogs, it was pretty much the only way for him to get back home from the international Apparition point at Gatwick. He plopped down into the nearest empty seat and turned to stare balefully into the pouring rain outside as the Bus took off with a sickening lurch.
"Hi." That was Harry's voice, sounding just as gloomy as Draco felt. Draco didn't move a muscle; after being ignored all week, he wasn't going to jump at the first sign that Saint Potter deigned him worthy of his attention again.
Even if he was starting to miss the git a little, but that was beside the point.
Harry, as ever oblivious to the finer nuances of non-verbal communication, sat down heavily in the seat next to Draco. "How do you think things will be on the pet front when we get home?"
At that, Draco finally turned his head, although he was careful to keep his expression neutral. "I think," he said in a clipped tone that would have done Severus Snape proud, "it's becoming obvious that some creatures just aren't compatible, no matter how hard you try."
Harry's posture stiffened a bit at that. "You really think so?"
Draco turned back to the window with a shrug and did his best to ignore the sudden hollow feeling in his stomach. He'd always known that French food didn't agree with him, after all.
"It certainly looks that way."
Draco had expected to find the house empty, but what they found instead was Pansy Parkinson and Luna Lovegood in the armchairs by the fireplace where they shared a bottle of Draco's secret stash of Cabernet. Pansy raised her glass at them when they entered; Loony Lovegood merely waved and grinned, which was a deeply disturbing sight since her lips and teeth were bright green from the lollypop she was eating.
"Welcome home, boys!" Pansy sounded as if the bottle of Cabernet hadn't been the first one she'd cracked that evening, but otherwise the house was suspiciously quiet. "How was Paris?"
"Uh, it was nice, thanks..." Harry dropped his suitcase and looked around the room, clearly searching for evidence of recently massacred pets. "Where are – you know, my Crup and Draco's Kneazle? Did you lock them up somewhere?"
Pansy pointed at a basket right in front of the fire, where bits of black-and-white fur were entangled in a mass of reddish bristles. "Sleeping right over there, Potter – what exactly are you wearing those monstrous glasses for?"
Draco felt his jaw drop. Indeed, here they were, Godric the Crup and Tom the Kneazle, wrapped around each other in one happy peaceful ball of fur. He could even hear Tom purring softly, which proved that they hadn't simply been stunned and stuffed into the basket against their will. To the best of his knowledge, Imperius didn't work on animals either, so –
"My God, how is that even possible?" Harry sounded utterly flabbergasted, which wasn't far from how Draco felt.
Pansy shrugged nonchalantly. "Oh please, you two should know better than anyone else that it doesn't take all that much to overcome some initial differences."
Slytherin indeed, Draco couldn't help thinking when he saw Harry's face light up like a Christmas tree at Pansy's words. He wasn't about to complain, though; the look Harry gave him when he said, "How about we go upstairs and... unpack, Draco?" was way too promising for that.
It was about time they reminded each other just how compatible they were in some areas, after all.
As soon as Harry and Draco were out of earshot, Luna took the lollipop out of her mouth and gave Pansy a look of mild curiosity. "When are you going to tell that we had them neutered?"
Pansy cocked her head as if in thought, although she was probably just listening to the muffled sounds from above. "I think," she finally drawled as she raised her glass in a mock salute in the general direction of the ceiling, "it can wait until tomorrow."